Even Though The 606 Is CMAQ-Funded, It Doesn’t Have to Be Open 24/7

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A cyclist commutes on the Bloomingdale Trail in the late evening. Photo: John Greenfield

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Although the Chicago Park District says nonstop commuting on the Bloomingdale Trail, aka The 606, is legal during park curfew hours of 11 p.m. to 6 a.m., the Chicago Police Department disagrees, and they currently clear the path of all users at 11.

Some bike advocates have asked if it’s even legal to close the Bloomingdale at night. Unlike New York City’s popular High Line elevated trail, which doesn’t allow cycling, much of The 606’s $95 million cost was funded by federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement funds.

The justification for the grant was that, since The 606 functions as a useful car-free commuting route, it helps reduce the number of automobile trips. So shouldn’t it be open 24/7, just like other transportation corridors?

Unfortunately, there don’t seem to be any rules that would prohibit limited access hours for CMAQ-funded bike paths. Federal Highway Administration spokesman Doug Hecox says FHWA CMAQ experts think the funding source doesn’t preclude an off-street bike facility from being closed at night. “Many bike/ped networks must use parks, forest preserves or other public lands to complete a transportation corridor and we presume some of these parks and forest preserves are closed to the public during overnight hours,” Hecox says.

Brian Housh, Midwest policy manager for the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, had a similar response. “I believe there can be good reasons for limiting the access of a facility by hours,” he says. “Funding programs are not very prescriptive and there’s reluctance to second-guess local authorities, such as police trying to prevent crime.”

“Certainly, I like to see trails open and accessible,” Rush adds. “However, the goals of CMAQ pertain to relieving traffic congestion and mitigating air quality burdens, both of which are primarily related to daytime driving.”

Unfortunately, it looks like another argument will be needed to get the police to change their misguided policy.

This post is made possible by a grant from the Illinois Bicycle Lawyers at Keating Law Offices, P.C., a Chicago, Illinois law firm committed to representing pedestrians and cyclists. The content is Streetsblog Chicago’s own, and Keating Law Offices neither endorses the content nor exercises any editorial control.

  • Adam

    Would you rather risk being robbed of your phone on the trail or of your life of Milwaukee by a drunk driver?

  • hakuna matata

    Why in the world is there any federal involvement in a local project (capital or operating costs)? That doesn’t mean the CPD isn’t full of BS.

  • planetshwoop

    Most transportation projects are partially funded with federal grants. This is true for most modes, not just bike paths.

  • neroden

    CPD doesn’t get to make up its own laws. This is park district property. If the park district says it’s open, that means it’s open. I’d like to see someone sue CPD over this; it’s very clear cut.

  • CMAQ funding neither precludes limiting access nor precludes 24/7 access. As such it is irrelevant to the argument.

    Since the Edens Expressway goes through the forest preserve near Cicero then the police need to be closing it down and sweeping it clear of car drivers at 11pm as well.

  • But is it truly Park District property? I thought the other hinge of the argument was that the Park District only managed the corridor on behalf of… What entity is the owner again?

  • johnaustingreenfield

    As you may know, the park district and the city are officially separate entities and land owners. The police have said that the trail is owned by the city and is only managed by the park district, so the park district’s ingress/egress policy doesn’t apply there.

    While the park district and TPL didn’t reply to recent questions whether the city or park district own the trail, a park district spokesperson recently told me that that the parks code, including the nonstop commuting rule, does apply to the trail.

  • Fine so the city owns it. It’s a bike Street. The city needs to treat it like any other Street. Always open and patroled when there are problems. Imho.

  • But the parks code lacks the force of law, obviously, or there wouldn’t be a controversy about it.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Yes, although it would be great if park district staffers hung out on the trail and intervened whenever police officers tried to kick out bike commuters. However, something tells me that might not work out so well in practice.

  • Jeff Gio

    Let’s pivot our argument from legal requirement to principle. It may not be as convincing but we could evoke concepts like freedom and righteousness. It’s also less leg-work since it’s all pathos

  • Jeff Gio

    Well the state has instituted curfews in high-crime areas, so shutting down the 606 on the grounds of safety would have precedence. I think curfews and the early closing of the 606 reveal a lot about a authority’s priorities

  • Jeff Gio

    Yes, let’s shut down Milwaukee. I have friends who have been in traffic accidents and friends who have been mugged, so Milwaukee is too dangerous for night time use!

  • Edwin Williamson

    This article would be better if it had an explanation (maybe by CPD) of WHY they want to close it. What specific concerns do they have? I am sure they have some that could be addressed in other ways.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Here’s some background on neighbors’ concerns about the potential for crime on the trail: http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/the-bloomingdale-trail-urban-oasis-or-devils-playground/Content?oid=1176747

    Also see my column this week in the Reader re: the 24/7 access issue: http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/keep-bloomingdale-trail-606-open-all-night/Content?oid=21389100

  • It is a street. Granted a bike street. So if there are muggings on a sidewalk do you close the street? Close the sidewalk? No. You either ignore it or you patrol it. It is really a simple concept.

  • Jeff Gio

    In case it’s not clear, I am against curfews and the obstruction of movement and congregation in public spaces. I’m saying that our dear authorities have a rich history of instating curfews in high crime areas, against minors, and against minorities.

  • Right I hear you. Against minors and minorities would not apply here unless you consider bikers and/or pedestrians minority. Honestly, while I believe you, other than during riots, I myself cannot think of an example. Sure the age-old curfews against minors. But here we have the regular closing of a public way. A street, I am calling it.

    It may be a case of the rise of biking has caught the police a bit flat-footed and behind the curve vis-a-vis their opponents. Perhaps the well known bicycle cops are more public relations than an actual crime fighting tool.

    But I agree with you that the whole thing deserves some additional out-of-the-box thinking.

  • Jeff Gio

    With exception to the youth, there aren’t too many examples now – you’re totally right! And yeah the police are probably flabbergasted.

  • neroden

    OK, seriously, the Park Department rule is “you can use the path at night, but you can’t hang around.”

    Basically “move along”. Didn’t police in the old days go up to people loitering and ask them to “move along”?

    If the Chicago PD were actually enforcing this rule, nobody would complain. Instead they are stopping people who ARE moving along.

    There is no justification for this. What sort of crime do Chicago PD think they’re stopping? If everyone is riding straight through, what possible crime are they committing?

  • My guess is this is driven by a desire to eliminate any potential legal liabilities for people getting injured at night due to visibility issues or being assaulted.

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